Int J Biol Sci 2018; 14(7):717-725. doi:10.7150/ijbs.24063

Research Paper

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in China: a comprehensive meta-analysis

Fei Wang1,2#, Li Lu1#, Shi-Bin Wang2#, Ling Zhang3#, Chee H. Ng4, Gabor S. Ungvari5, Xiao-Lan Cao6, Jian-Ping Lu6, Cai-Lan Hou2, Fu-Jun Jia2✉, Yu-Tao Xiang1✉

1. Unit of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Macau, Macao SAR.
2. Guangdong Mental Health Center, Guangdong General Hospital & Guangdong Academy of Medical Sciences, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.
3. The National Clinical Research Center for Mental Disorders, China &Center of Depression, Beijing Institute for Brain Disorders & Mood Disorders Center, Beijing Anding Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China.
4. Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia;
5. The University of Notre Dame Australia / Graylands Hospital, Perth, Australia.
6. Shenzhen Key Laboratory for Psychological Healthcare & Shenzhen Institute of Mental Health, Shenzhen Kangning Hospital & Shenzhen Mental Health Center, Shenzhen, China.
#These authors equally contributed to the work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
Wang F, Lu L, Wang SB, Zhang L, Ng CH, Ungvari GS, Cao XL, Lu JP, Hou CL, Jia FJ, Xiang YT. The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in China: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Int J Biol Sci 2018; 14(7):717-725. doi:10.7150/ijbs.24063. Available from

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There are conflicting prevalence estimates of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in mainland China (China thereafter). This study is a comprehensive meta-analysis of the pooled prevalence of ASDs in the general population in China. Study investigators independently conducted a systematic literature search of the following databases: PubMed, EMBASE, PsycINFO, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Chinese biomedical literature service system, and Wan Fang. Studies reporting prevalence of ASDs and autism in Chinese population were identified and analysed using the Comprehensive Meta-Analysis program with the random effects model. Forty-four studies were included in the meta-analysis comprising 2,337,321 subjects of whom 46.66 % were females. The mean age of subjects ranged from 1.6 to 8 years. Based on diagnostic criteria the pooled prevalence of ASDs was 39.23 per 10,000 (95% CI: 28.44-50.03 per 10,000, I2=89.2%); specifically, the prevalence of autism was 10.18 per 10,000 (95% CI: 8.46-11.89 per 10,000, I2=92.5%). Subgroup analyses revealed significant difference in the prevalence of ASDs between genders (72.77 per 10,000 in males vs. 16.45 per 10,000 in females). In conclusion, the prevalence of ASDs and autism in China was found generally lower than those reported in other countries. Further studies are needed to clarify the variation in prevalence.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder, prevalence, meta-analysis, China